Another week. Vanilla Essence, Home brewing, seed saving etc

This has been such a busy week here! The garden is running a muck (read, weeds out of control) and I have been working way more than we were expecting me to due to short staffing. Roger has been busy elsewhere during the weekends and we are behind in everything. But… all is good 🙂

We got a great buy!! I must say here when my hubby bid on it on an auction site I thought he was buying a Still and encouraged him, alas it is a beer making kit which is NOT QUITE THE SAME. Beer isn’t cheap and though I can see the sense in making one’s own….I hate the stuff. I was thinking vodka for fruit liquers and preserving herbs (yummy things), he was thinking ice cold beers at the end of a working day …. every Kiwi male enjoys his beer. But I did get something out of it. This all came for $53 and note the glass bottles, 1 dozen of those gorgeous things which we will not be using for beer 🙂 This unit had been used once.Image

I mentioned last week a friend had made us some vodka so I have been trying different things with it. He has told us we can borrow his Still to make our own, if you have Vodka you can make all sorts and homemade vodka is soooo cheap – $28 for 8 large bottles!

Vanilla Essence:

Split 6 vanilla pods sideways then cut in half. Place in bottle and pour over 1 cup vodka. Leave to stand in a dark cupboard for 8 weeks to mature. Apparently this will last forever, just topping up vodka or adding another pod as required. It smells divine!

Vanilla Essence

Vanilla Essence

After 3 days:

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Herbal Tinctures:

Instructions from my sister-in-law Beth – Place 300 g of desired herb in airtight jar and cover with vodka. Leave to sit in a cool dark place to 2 weeks, shaking regularly. Squeeze all liquid out of the leaves and discard, strain and bottle. Take 1 – 3 tsp a day. I want to build up a supply of these but my first is Feverfew, used for migraines and as an anti-inflammatory.

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Freezing without blanching: A tip.

I do all my beans, zucchini and pumpkin this way (if pumpkin is not storing well I will freeze it). It’s the quickest method I have found and removes all the air without need for a vacuum pump. The snaplock bags can be used dozens of times.

Place vegetables in bag filling about 3/4 full.Image

Without sealing shake all vegetables down, fold over to meet vegetables while letting air escape.Image

Seal while folded. All excess air is gone.

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Press out flat for storage

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Coriander Seed:

Whose idea was it to dry and collect this? Oh yeah…. mine. Alot more complicated than it sounded at the time because we never pulled it out and hung it upside down in a rubbish bag when we should’ve. By the time we pulled it they had been dropping for weeks so instead we did it the hard way!

One coriander plant = thousands of seeds

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Just a little of them.

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McGyver’s (Mr QAL’s) solution for separating seed from stalk 🙂 🙂

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1 bowl full, as far as we have – and this AFTER Syd chased the cat through the lounge and spread a complete bowl all over the carpet. Back to the flippin heater / fan stage of collection, instead I threw my hands in the air yelling “That’s it, I’ve had it!” so it might sit there a few days before the final product is clean and edible!

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Chocolate and Almond Buckwheat Granola Clusters:

A few months ago I changed to a gluten free diet, this past few weeks I have been craving a decent cereal to replace homemade muesli. Fran from Serendipity Farm saved the day with a wonderful recipe for these granola clusters which she has tweaked from another recipe. http://theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/narf7s-bolshie-blissful-buckwheat-granola-clusters/

I then tweaked hers and came up with this which I will post in a wee while but Oh yum, it’s delicious and not nearly as expensive as similar products on the market, in fact it turned out far cheaper than I thought it would.Image

First you need Sunflower Butter and I have been wanting to try some of this so a good excuse. Also an economical butter to make and tastes delicious. The recipe for this can also be found on Fran’s post or http://www.gypsyforest.com/welcome_to_gypsy_forest/2012/09/cinnamon-maple-sunflower-seed-butter.html

I used honey rather than maple syrup.

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Coconut Oil Deodorant:

This is all I use nowadays and is very economical to make compared with organic deodorants. I shall also post this this separately.Image

It’s a beautiful day here today and I have so much to do I don’t know where to start but at the beginning is probably a good idea….coffee, while I think about everything and procastinate as well as only I can do 🙂

Oh, I did have a nice thing happen. I got an email from a fellow blogger from Australia who is coming to NZ and would like to visit if he can manage it. I think that’s pretty cool 🙂

And this week I started reading on the e-course I won on Everyday Simplicity from http://handcraftedtravellers.com. Check out their site if you haven’t already, it’s just lovely.

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Freezing eggs and preserving….my busy time of the year.

And so it starts – all those tiny seeds planted in spring by an very exuberant husband pays off in a barage of “stuff to do something with” now. There is 2- 3 months ahead of me in food processing and most days I love it, some days I wonder why on earth we do all this. Once it’s all finished though and we get to step back and see the years food all sitting there, it’s a satisfying thing.The garden is flourishing and gaps have been newly planted for autumn, the last chance to grow for winter food – bar the raised garden of greens out in the front yard and “yay” the glasshouse this year.

Freezing eggs: We normally give surplus eggs away but have started freezing them for use over winter when laying is minimal. It makes no sense to give them away and buy over winter. Whole eggs can just be stirred (not whisked as it gives too much air) and frozen in ice cube trays or zip lock packages with the amounts on. Our eggs are quite large so two cubes equals one egg (for baking)Image

My provident journey did this post on freezing eggs which people might be interested in if wanting to freeze yolks and whites separately http://myprovidentjourney.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/provident-uses-for-your-freezer-eggs-other-things-i-havent-tried/

Beetroot/Beets: 

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Beetroot is one of our favourite vegetables to grow – I think so far we have planted over 200 or so with more to come. It’s easy, virtually disease and pest free, has a good leeway when it can be harvested so can be preserved when I have the time, both the bulbs and leaves can be eaten and it’s super healthy. We use it nearly every day either grated in salads, roasted, juiced (except I blew up my juicer forcing beetroot into it!) and we bottle heaps of it. It’s a good food to have in sandwiches through winter when tomatoes aren’t available. https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/spiced-beetroot-preserving-recipe/

Spiced Beetroot is a delicious recipe for bottling and we make it every year

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Beetroot Chutney

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The recipe for this I found at http://hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/beetroot-chutney/ I had never tried it before so made just one quantity to try it. This has alot of ginger in and is spicy/gingery. I like it but I don’t think hubby will. Note my labels 🙂 🙂 This is so the lady of the house who wears reading glasses but doesn’t bother when getting food from the pantry, doesn’t serve up feijoa jam to go with cold meat when we have guests….again! I needed something BIG. I found these labels and was rapt, they peel off so next season I don’t need to soak anything off. A bonus, and worth every cent.

My husband refuses to eat the leaves cooked (though he will eat small ones in a salad) but I saw this recipe earlier in the week and really want to try it, it looks utterly delicious http://backyardfarmer.co.nz/2014/01/28/ricotta-and-beetroot-tops-pasta-one-of-the-best-pastas-i-have-ever-eaten-and-i-have-eaten-a-lot-of-pasta/

Zucchini:

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:):) Yep, we have a glut, especially as Roger planted 6 plants this year because he really likes the chutney I make and this vegetable is so versatile. We are giving it away left, right and centre lol. But I am freezing some, making heaps of the chutney because it gets ladled onto to everything all year long and we are eating it every night. I tried zucchini chips but they didn’t work out – I will try it again at some stage.

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Yesterdays harvest minus the four marrow I gave away.

Raspberry Liqueur: A friend of ours who makes his own spirits kindly made us a batch of vodka. I would never buy vodka but wanted to try making my own fruit liqueurs and this is affordable and can be used with many different fruits. 1 lb of fruit, 3 cups of vodka and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Leave to steep for a month, shake or stir regularly. Strain, sit a month then filter and rebottle, leave at least 3 months before drinking. Yep, I know….3 whole months!! I wonder if the same thing will happen that happened with our wine, drunk too soon but it was very good!

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I have slowly been adding dried vegetables to a large jar of dried soup mix. We bought a metre and a half of aluminium fly screen netting to place on top of our oven racks and vegetables can be tried overnight at 50 – 60 degrees. I have done carrots, beans, onions, pumpkin to add too lentils, barley, herbs etc. This is slow going but given I used to buy a packet of stockpot mix as a base to each pot I made I figure at least I know what is in my homemade.

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Beer Tempura Vegetables

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An economical and delicious way of dressing up ordinary vegetables, this is a perfect scratch meal that’s sure to please. I have made these quite a few times over the years but made up my own batter recipe as I have often not been entirely happy with past efforts, this is just perfect. Light, crunchy and golden. Normally we have this late summer and use capsicums, broccoli, pumpkin etc but this time I just used what I had in the fridge – nothing startling but it was very good. The zucchini flowers are excellent this way. And usually it’s served with sweet chilli sauce but I have run out so we had it with chutney.

Chop whatever vegetables you are using and spread out on a board to dry for at least 30 minutes. They must be dry for the batter to stick.

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Batter:

3/4 cup white flour

1/2 cup cornflour (corn starch)

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg

1/2 tsp salt

Chilled Beer (approx 3/4 stubbie or can)

Olive Oil (this can be strained and refrigerated to use again)

Mix the dry ingredients, add the egg and 1 cup of beer. Mix well and add more beer until it is a batter similar consistency to a thinnish pancake batter. It needs to coat thinly but be thick enough to stay on whatever you are coating. Leave to stand 10 minutes.

Heat about 3 cups of oil in a pot, about 3 ” deep. Turn on warming drawer or oven as this needs to be cooked in batches and kept hot. Toss vegetables one batch at a time (maybe 10 – 12 pieces) and fry just a few minutes till a rich golden colour. Repeat process till all cooked. These keep well while being kept warm and do not go soggy….they are also great as leftovers. I made twice this amount on the plate.

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Red Pepper, Zucchini and Baby Spinach Omelette

If I am just cooking for me omelettes are my meal of choice, using whatever is in the garden or fridge. This was particularly nice.

Heat omelette pan with a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. Slice red peppers and saute for a minute, add sliced zucchini and saute both until just tender. Beat together 3 eggs, a couple of tablespoons of water or milk, salt and pepper, and pour over vegetables.

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As the eggs are setting cover with baby spinach leaves, fold in pan and remove onto plate. Top with avocado.

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A good, tasty meal for one doesn’t get much easier or quicker than omelettes!

Seed saving – Zucchini

Image2 huge marrows have been adorning our front porch all winter – I am not quite sure why we left them there so long but I think hubby thought they looked ornamental alongside a weird pumpkin. The outside were very tough to cut but the insides rich with colour and fiber and lots of plump seeds.

These are Cocobelle, a heirloom variety. We bought 10 seeds a few years back and have been doing our own ever since. My husband would normally smash these but as I generally have to clean up the mess I cut them….and quite a few of the seeds!

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Left to dry for a week in a cool, dry spot these will be ready for planting and enough seeds for potting up for others and storing.

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Chocolate Zucchini and Yogurt Cake

Rich, moist and chocolatey – you would never guess this has 3 cups of grated zucchini in it. And it’s easy, I love easy.

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1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk

2 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup cocoa

2 tsp espresso powder

3 cups shredded zucchini

1/2 cup chocolate drops (optional, I didn’t use but would’ve been super good with it!)

Preheat oven to 325 f and grease a large cake tin. Beat together softened butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, yogurt, eggs and salt until smooth. Add flour and cocoa, beat, then add zucchini and lastly chocolate drops. Pour into cake tin and bake 30 – 35 minutes.

I topped with chocolate icing – 75 g softened butter, a little boiling water, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 good tbspn cocoa and enough icing sugar to beat to a good consistency.This recipe came from http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/chocolate-zucchini-cake-recipe – they suggest melting chocolate over the top.